Saturday, June 5, 2010

This makes for some good reading...

The tragedies that continually befall the people in Gaza and all of PALESTINE are attrocious, whether the victim is Palestinian or Israeli. Goldstone, who headed the UN reporting team, is an international jurist and JEWISH. In an address to the Jewish community on May 4, 2010, Goldstone said, "I have spent much of my professional life in the cause of international criminal justice. It would have been hypocritical for me to continue to speak out against violations of international law and impunity for war crimes around the world but remain silent when it came to Israel simply because I am Jewish."

This article is regarding the US response to the war crimes that were cited against Israel, which greatly outnumber those cited for Palestine.
US House Rejects Goldstone Report

This is Israel's response to the Goldstone report.

Israel Prepares to Fight War Crimes Claims After UN Gaza Report

This is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article regarding the Goldstone Report.

The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict was a team established by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) during the Gaza War as an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in connection with the conflict.[1] The mission was established on 3 April 2009, by the President of the UNHRC. Richard Goldstone, a respected international jurist from South Africa,[2] was appointed to head the mission,[1] accompanied by Christine Chinkin of the United Kingdom,
Hina Jilani of Pakistan, and Desmond Travers of Ireland.[3]

The mission's final report was released 15 September 2009, and accused both Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. It recommended that the sides openly investigate their own conduct and, should they fail to do so, that the allegations to be brought to the International Criminal Court.[4][5] The Israeli government rejected the report as prejudiced and full of errors.[6] The militant Islamic group Hamas, deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, and others, which governs the Gaza Strip, initially rejected the report's findings,[7] but then urged world powers to embrace it.[8]

The controversial[9][10][11][12] report received wide support among developing countries in the United Nations, while Western countries were split between supporters and opponents of the resolutions endorsing the report. Supporters argued that the findings were accurate, that Goldstone was a fair, credible figure, and that the recommendations of the report should be implemented. Critics argued that the report was factually and/or methodologically flawed, and motivated by anti-Israel bias in the UNHRC.[13]

On 16 October 2009, the UNHRC passed a resolution endorsing the report and criticizing Israel, and on 4 November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution calling for independent investigations to be conducted by Israel and Palestinian armed groups on allegations of war crimes described in the report. On 3 November 2009, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution denouncing the report as "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy." In contrast, the European Parliament passed a resolution endorsing the Goldstone report in March 2010. The resolution called on the bloc's member states to "publicly demand the implementation of [the report's] recommendations and accountability for all violations of international law, including alleged war crimes."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Imam al-Haddad on Giving Good Counsel to Fellow Muslims

I have met a few new Muslimahs (female Muslims) over the past month or two. Inevitably, I am asked questions regarding some basics of Islam, such as prayer. Even though I have been a Muslim for over two years, I know I am still young in Islam. I am learning still, and I hope I will always be learning.

It's not easy to give someone a helping hand, or advice, when you are sometimes unsure of your own foothold. It is always a good idea to be cautious when giving advice, but lend yourself to your brothers and sisters, if you are able. I think this will create a sense of community and further the bond between us all. It feels good to help someone.

The above link will take you to an article I just read. It is short and concise. It really drives home the point of being truthful with our brothers and sisters when giving advice, and to not be envious of others. I enjoyed reading it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Finals are over!

Thank God! No more tests to study for, or essays to write. No more assignments due and extra credit. I feel like I have been released from the grinding stone. Now I just need to get this apartment in order. I have all summer to go through my possessions and give away what I do not need or want anymore. It will be great to downsize and donate goods to someone who could use them.

I can get to some serious reading, start some exploratory art this summer, and refinish a chest of drawers. The reading will be from Moez Masoud's website. There are a lot of interesting topics. For example, there is a topic about the proper way to carry out Jihad, which is not the extremist factions' perverted meaning of Jihad. There are also some suggested books that pique my interest as well.

I have some new media that I want to try out. I bought a material called Dura-Lar, which is like a cross between acetate and mylar. I am going to work on incorporating that into my art. We'll see how that works out.

This chest of drawers was given to me by my last landlord. It's a horrible green and off white. I am going to strip it of all its paint and repaint it. I am putting together a wildlife theme for my baby's room, so I want to paint the body of the piece black and the drawer fronts white. The handles on the drawers are a long horizontal piece of wood that is hollowed from the underneath. Those I will probably paint black since our hands will constantly be grabbing in that area. I do not want to see the oils and dirt from our hands discolor the handles.

There's my summer in a nutshell. Now, if I can stay motivated...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Too Much Stress...

I am attending graduate school. This is my first semester and thankfully I had decided on taking internet courses this Spring. It has been hellish trying to get back into the swing of completing assignments, cramming for tests, and studying for finals (which I am currently engaged in now). Saturday will be the end of my misery. I have one on-campus final left and an essay to turn in tomorrow night. The subject? Educational psychology.

I have returned to school to get my Master of Arts in Art Education with a certification in teaching. I am excited about teaching art. When I was living in Alexandria, Egypt I had an opportunity to teach art in 1st-8th grade. Although then, I knew nothing of lesson plans and multicultural education. After this semester of school, I can retrospectively look at the myriad mistakes I made and a few good lessons I had. It was hard to teach and have fun with art in a culture that did not seem to value art the same way I had grown to love it. It was hard for the students to connect to the purpose of art. They could not see the value and I was ill equipped to change that. Hopefully, now that I am more prepared, I will be able to touch the lives of students where ever I happen to be teaching.

Moez Masoud

If you go to the above link, a short presentation given by Moez Masoud will download in a RealPlayer media box.

The first time I saw this presentation, it was completely by chance. My husband had downloaded it from YouTube. Ever since that day, nearly a year ago now, any time I feel weak in my faith I think of how Moez spoke in that presentation. I think of the words he said, and the way he said them. He has love in his heart and it spills from his mouth. I want that. I want to feel what he feels.

Having faith and remaining true to that faith are two different paths. I can have faith that Allah is there; that He is watching me. I can have faith that he only wants the best for me. But that does not mean I will always acknowledge the attention Allah gives me. That does not mean I will always pray fard (the obligatory five prayers). Only having faith guarantees passivity in faith. Remaining true to faith is an active path that I need to walk. Remaining true to faith means I am compelled by that faith. that love of Allah to continue to fight the good fight, and actively acknowledge Him who created me for worship.

I am not perfect. I do not always pray. I do not always do as I should. I know this sometimes before I act, other times in reflection of the day's going-ons. If I could only live in the present and be fully aware of my mind-body, I feel I could shed my bad behaviors.

I listened to an interview with Moez Masoud that was aired on a public radio broadcast from WUNC in North Carolina.

The above link is that broadcast. It has given me hope that I can change my path of passive faith to one of active love-faith. Moez had his ups and downs and had a beginning like most contemporary youths. He definitely had a life that I could campare to my own. He even spoke about how he did not pray, and after a life changing "awakening," how he dealt with certain issues of expressing his faith. He stated that he put an injunction on himself that he would not sleep until he made sure to say all his prayers, even if he had to lump them together. Since my slip ups consist of not always praying, this really stood out to me.

He changed. He changed not because he was embarrassed or worried about his reputation as a Muslim. He changed because he realized Allah gave him a chance to change his behavior. Allah loves us so much to give us another chance. Even me. Alhamdulillah rabbil alameen arahman iraheem.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Learning to Read and Write Arabic

I am learning to read and write Arabic now. It is important as a Muslim to know certain things in Arabic, such as prayer and praise for God (dhikr). I am not downgrading praises in any other language, because we go to God as we are. Although, it is nice to be able to praise him in another language. The best book I have found is "The Arabic Alphabet: How to Read and Write It" by Nicholas Awde and Putros Samano. It's a small book, but it's powerful. I have only sat down with this book 4 times and I am already writing words in Arabic and reading a little. It's kind of funny, because I can read the letters that are typed and I can't understand a thing I am reading. It is like reading a scientific journal on quantum physics without a science degree. You read the words, and you might know what one or two words mean, but you can't make heads or tails of the information in a cohesive body.

Just like learning to ride a bike, it will take practice. I love to write Arabic. I am an artist, so I look at writing Arabic more like drawing. Another really nice book is "Arabic Script." Although this book isn't about learning to read or write, it shows the many different calligraphic fonts of Arabic. It even has great examples of the names of God and phrases in Arabic, such as Basmala (Bismillah) meaning "In the name of God."

The Spoken Language of Jesus

It took hours of sifting through information to assemble what seems to be a logical answer to what some may think is easy. If asked what language Jesus spoke, some people will immediately answer Hebrew, others Aramaic, and even some have said Arabic. I have even heard Greek and Latin.

We know from the Gospels that Jesus, 'Easa in Arabic, spoke to many different people in different places across the Middle East. He spoke to the Romans, and the Jewish high council, and everyday people across all walks of life in places like Palastine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

According to the Ko'ran, Jesus was given the knowledge of the Torah. Jesus had intimate knowledge of the Jewish traditions and the Mosaic law, the laws passed to Moses. Jesus most likely spoke Hebrew to the scholars in the synagogue, since he spent a lot of time as a youth in the synagogues. According to the Ko'ran and the Bible, Jesus was to bring the message given to him to the children of Israel [and then to the Gentiles]. Jesus reprimanded the Jews for making religion hard to follow. So, it was his duty to lead us to the right path.

I had been under the impression that the Children of Israel spoke Hebrew, but actually Hebrew was not the common language among the Jews of this time. It was mostly a priestly language. Aramaic was the trade language. So, it was the most widely spoken language in the surrounding regions and most likely the language used by Jesus. It is speculative that he may have even spoken some Latin when addressing the Romans.

The Ko'ran states: "We* never sent to a people a messenger who did not master their tongue; so he made himself understood, distinctly expressing all that is meant..."
Another translation: "We* never sent a messenger who did not speak the tongue of his people, that he may explain to them distinctly..."(Surah 14:4)

Here is the most important point; every prophet that has come, spoke the appropriate language to give God's message clearly and accurately. We shouldn't let the squabbling of scholars inhibit or dampen our yearning for knowledge. It is too easy to lose sight of why we began our search when there are so many clouds hiding the sun.

* God is one God and the usage of "we" is the royal "we," also called the singular of intensity.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Suffering is a gift. In it is hidden mercy." -Rumi

It is amazing to recall the ups and downs over the last five years of my life. I went through a rough divorce and found comfort in all the wrong places. That was the jumping off point for a downward spiral. Too many vices, too little time. I had family (i.e. parental) troubles thrown on top of that emotional heap. After being torn every which way and trying to make sense of it all, a bright light shone into my life. I was introduced to Islam. I fell in love with the Beloved and everything began to change.
I moved to Egypt. I became a Muslim. I got married and I now have the most wonderful people in my life. It was a year of changes.
"The highs are hidden in the lows. Spring is imminent in fall. Don't run away from anything." -Rumi

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

Although Rumi has been dead for over 700 years, his poetry still resonates across the globe and deep within the mystical Islamic tradition of Sufism. I felt like sharing my love of this beloved poet and wonderful author by quoting a few lines from The Essential Rumi.

Quote from "A Basket of Fresh Bread" -Rumi                                        

"Don't feed both sides of yourself equally. The spirit and the body carry different loads and require different attentions.

Too often we put saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey run loose in the pasture.

Don't make the body do what the spirit does best, and don't put a big load on the spirit that the body could easily carry."

copyright 2004 by Coleman Barks

"Perhaps the world's greatest spiritual poet-the gold of Rumi pours down through Coleman's words. The words leap off the page and dance!"
-Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart

"At the end of our wanderings there is only the soul's yearning to return to God. No one speaks that yearning better than rumi. No one, these days, does Rumi better than Colemen Barks."
-Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now

"Through Coleman Bark's inspiried renderings, we tired, modern people have come not only to love Rumi, but even-a little-to love who and what Rymiu himself loved."
-Jacob Needlemen, author of The Heart of Philosphy

Other titles by Coleman Barks:

The Soul of Rumi
Rumi: The Book of Love
The Drowned Book

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mission Statement... of sorts.

I decided to start this blog, not only to keep a journal of my studies, but as a way to sort my thoughts. Sometimes it's like a multi-train collision in my head, especially when I am talking about religion or philosophy. So many thoughts all converge at one point, which causes me to forget where I began my line of questioning or reasoning. At times, I get so bogged down with inexhustible resources that I have to just stop everything, refocus, and delve into the subject again.

Islam is a recent passion that I share with millions worldwide. When I say recent, I mean that I have only been a Muslim for approximately 2 years. These two years have not been easy. Prior, I had been a Christian for 8 years, I dabbled in Buddhism, and for a while I was not of any denomination and even hated any organized religion. In some ways, I still hate the idea of organized religion.

When a friend told me about Islam, I didn't really listen as someone who wanted religion. I merely debated with that person regarding religion and everything under the sun. One day, alhamdulilah (thanks be to God), I found myself really listening and understanding. I was thirsty for this knowledge and began seeking more information. I knew then I had to be a part of this greatness, a part of His greatness. I began to love God, to want Him in my life. It even felt good to pray again.

I brought with me a lot of emotional and religious baggage, which I wish I could have left at the door, so to speak. Although, I think this "baggage" is carried by everyone who has ever changed, or thought about changing, religions. It would have been ideal if I could have erased my previous religious imprint and started anew. Even now, two years later, I can't help but interject Christian thinking or other secular information into my learning of Islam. It causes me to question and doubt, at times, what it is I am doing. Then, I remember why I began this journey. I was incomplete. My questioning and doubt is a way for me to strengthen my belief through the answers that I find. Thus, my arduous and rewarding path to Allah was founded.

So, here's to my attempts to make sense of it all, and find myself in the Beloved, insh'Allah (God willing).